Two moms wanting to make a difference...
What happens when you take two hardworking “farmers daughters”, put them in Sonoma and add school-age kids into the mix? What happens is a homegrown nonprofit thrift store…Republic of Thrift…a thrift store benefitting the public schools of Sonoma. A small store that has donated over $150,000 to Sonoma Valley public schools since opening in 2012.
It’s a story of “Thrift Sisters” Jeannette Tomany and Michelle Mammini…two moms wanting to make a difference in their kids’ education. You might wonder how this came about and what enabled the sisters to get to the place where they are today.
The sisters were raised in San Martin, California in a very simple house with very little money. They worked on their Dad’s farm from age 11, sorting tomatoes, zucchini and peppers to earn money for school clothes. It was this background that really gave the sisters their moxie and a strong work ethic. At the same time, their grandmother was very involved in their community and in volunteerism. She won awards and recognition in the community and continues to have a scholarship awarded in her name. This was their role model for the future.
Work and life experiences continued them on the path needed for this future endeavor. Both sisters worked during their early 20s at Nordstrom, which gave them the customer service focus required. Jeannette went on to work in the travel industry in various capacities – group scuba diving travel excursions and world-wide travel programs. Creating and managing event programs for 50-2000 people gave her many skills needed to start a new business. Michelle went to work in various administrative and office management roles. The skills she developed would be instrumental in the day-to-day operations of the store and employee management.
Republic of Thrift came about when the sisters were discussing the state of Sonoma Valley school funding where Jeannette lived in 2011. The idea was quickly born! Excited, they quietly began developing a business plan and carefully moving forward to find a storefront. Jeannette immediately began going to garage sales, telling her story, picking up “leftovers” to fill two storage units. Prestwood Elementary added clothing collections to their annual coat drive and collected over 800 pounds of clothes! These donations really helped launch the store. Finally, a retail space was found on Highway 12 and leased. Republic of Thrift was born without assistance from any organization and completely with their personal funds.
Michelle uprooted her family from Lodi, CA and relocated to Glen Ellen. She moved on the weekend and on Monday they began working a 70+ hour work week. Both sisters worked tirelessly, along with a few dedicated employees. With Jeannette not taking a salary for the first year, they immediately began donating funds to the eleven SV public schools. Although they were always operating as a nonprofit, they became an official 501(c)3 in 2013.
People often are curious about the “backroom” operations. The sisters will be first to tell you that the learning curve was extremely difficult! In spite of their work experience, these two sisters had no experience in thrift store operations. Processing and pricing donations was slow. There was a lot of “let’s set this aside and decide later” happening. This led to piles of merchandise in their back storage room and yard, making the day-to-day operations in the back of house very challenging. But as time went on, processes fell into place. Pricing became easier and quicker. The donation process was fine-tuned. Merchandising was ever changing and evolving. Adapting has been key to the success of the store.
Both Michelle and Jeannette are quick to tell you that in 2017 (at the five-year mark) they are finally hitting their groove. Donations are accepted four days a week, allowing focused pricing on the other three days. Merchandise is priced low to move quickly. A monthly sale keeps things fresh and new for shoppers. The store is clean and organized. Staff is friendly and professional. The frequently changing window display with mannequin Thriftina is fun and quirky, drawing customers into the store.
If you haven’t already been in, stop by Republic of Thrift to discover what they have to offer. Locals voted this Sonoma’s BEST SECOND HAND STORE in 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016 (Sonoma Sun). This isn’t your typical big chain thrift store, but 3,000sf of independent thrifting paradise. You will find quality items throughout the store, including “fresh from the barn” items, ephemera, exceptional clothing, small collectibles and funky finds that are sure to inspire you.
And the icing on the cake? Republic of Thrift benefits Sonoma Valley Public Schools. When you donate local and shop local, your charity dollars stay local. With over $150,000 donated to our public schools as of February 2017, Jeannette, Michelle and all the staff at Republic of Thrift are marking an important difference in the lives of the Valley’s children.
Thank you to our friends, family and the community of Sonoma Valley who have all supported us and helped to make our store what it is today!
Committed to Making a Difference in Sonoma Valley public education.
To provide our customers with the best prices and shopping experience, while benefiting local public school fundraising efforts through the sale of donated second-hand merchandise.
Our core values are also visually represented in our colorful logo!
- Re-use / Reduce / Recycle
- Supporting Public Schools